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5. Evaluate Your Sources

Evaluating your sources and spotting fake sites, fake news and media bias.

What is Media Bias?

Bias is "a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion" about someone or something. When we discuss bias in media in the US, we are generally referring to conservative (also known as right) v. liberal (also known as left) bias, though there are many more ways to be biased and no one is truly free of bias.

Bias differs from fake news in that fake news is specifically untrue. Biased sources don't necessarily use lies, they just don't include the whole picture, only using the facts that support their viewpoint. By using only the facts that support their cause they are giving an incomplete and therefore inaccurate picture.

Bias Example: Travel Ban

These three news sources represent conservative (Human Events), liberal (MSNBC) and centrist (PBS NewsHour) stories on President Trump's travel ban.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is tricky. As pertains to news, it basically says that we tend to seek out the sources that confirm our existing bias. We tend to watch just the conservative news, or just the liberal news depending on whether our own beliefs lean toward conservative or liberal.

Not only that, when we view centrist sources, we tend to think of them as leaning to the left or right rather then the center.

Which means we are not getting the whole picture of news and events in our world.

How do you get a more complete picture? Seek out sources that challenge your bias. In other words, get your news from the spectrum of bias: conservative, liberal and centrist sources.

How to Spot Media Bias

When trying to spot bias, ask yourself these questions: 

1. What kind of information is it?
News? Opinion? Ad? Does it appeal to your emotions or does it make you think?
2. Who and what are the sources cited and why should you believe them?
 Is the source given? Is the source associated with a political party or special interest group?
3. What’s the evidence and how was it vetted?
What’s the evidence and how was it vetted? Is the source a document? Witness? Or is it hearsay/speculation?
4: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?
Did the sources provided justify the conclusion or main point of the story?
5. What’s missing?
Was there an aspect or point that was not covered or unclear that you are left wondering about?

Based on American Press Institute.

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